Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another Great Read

Three months ago, Adolf posted on the subject of Churchill's account of 'The River War' in which he chronicled the events leading up to the British reconquest of Khartoum and the avenging of General Gordon's death at the hands of the Islamists. In the comments thread, George recommended I get hold of Churchill's other early book, 'The Story Of The Malakand Field Force.'

Thus began a bureaucratic saga.

Adolf lodged an online request for said epistle with the local library which eventually provided the news that this book was not available. So the telephone became the next line of technological attack. As a result, the good people at the library were able to spend a little time and report that no Malakands were able to be found anywhere in South Australia. Strange, I thought. This is the most arid state in Australia so you would think it had much in common with Afghanistan but apparently not so.

A couple of weeks later the helpful lady rang back to tell be she could get the book on loan from Canberra for two weeks and the fee would be only $17.00. I quietly let her know that she need not bother as the last time I bought a paperback it cost less than her two weeks borrower's fee.

Before heading off to Fiji last month we visited the local second hand book shop and enquired of the late fifties or so north country Pommy lady behind the counter as to the availability of 'Malakand.' Her staggering reply - "Was Winston Churchill an author? I didn't know he wrote any books!"

I remarked politely on her lack of education and 'put her right' so to speak, after which she was able to inform me she didn't know how to use the computer so she couldn't say whether they had it or not but 'Don't worry, the boss will be back nest week and she'll give you a ring.' Of course 'next week' we were sunning ourselves in Fiji so I arranged to receive the good news after we returned.

Blow me down with a feather, the good lady boss duly called to say she had a brand new copy of a 2010 unabridged paperback edition for $21.00.

Fantastic. One chapter per day extends the pleasure and yes, George it IS a cracking yarn.

It is quite bizarre to read the names of places which have been front and centre in our daily news for this last couple of years or so, such as the Swat Valley.

Whatever their faults, the Poms knew how to run a colony in those days.



Sb said...

Thanks for the post - I have requested both from Auckland Library


Anonymous said...


Psycho Milt said...

The out of copyright stuff is usually online somewhere. Aussie libraries are buggers for fees - what you need is a nice local university library, eg, we've got a copy and most likely Uni SA does too. Public libraries mainly tend to have popular stuff, which this book isn't (cracker read though it might be).

Oswald Bastable said...

I pick up a lot of out of print books on trademe.

Anonymous said...

Both titles free on the kindle via amazon. You can also read them on a PC or ipad/phone by downloading the app. Adolf you didnt even have to leave home to get them!

Flashman said...


A neat piece of colonial policing if ever there was.

Please pass on my warmest regards to my old Commanding Officer, Sir Bindon Blood.

maxx said...

The River War

The Story of the Malakand River Force

Both free

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

A further new experience to be recommended.

Try reading a few chapters and then have a look at the recorded history per Wikipedia.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation - I have just downloaded a freebie and have started reading.

Many of Churchill's observations are relevant today.

"The weapons of the nineteenth century are in the hands of the savages of the Stone Age."

"It is, thank heaven, difficult if not impossible for the modern European to fully appreciate the force which fanaticism exercises among an ignorant, warlike and Oriental population."


"But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness."